welcome to Café Ludwig

There are many nooks and crannies in this place, this corner is for chats and tips about cameras, computing, and sharing photos, aimed at folks fairly new to the hobby. From the “front door” you can get to other topic areas and especially the galleries. Do visit the other corner of Café Ludwig for more on photos and photography.

Relax and read about your favorite pastime, you do need to bring your own cup of coffee.

Right now a lot of sprucing up is going on. You may have noticed the updated layout and a more readable font. Other changes are coming, so please excuse the dust.

Museum Photography 2

Visit to the Delta Flight Museum

Delta Airlines recently opened the Delta Flight Museum to the public. The museum is located in two historic hangars, now on the Delta Airline corporate campus. A most interesting place to visit. My visit there also provided me with some additional thoughts and tips on museum photography to go along with my earlier article, Museum Photography.

The Delta Flight Museum is housed in two connected maintenance hangars dating from the 1940s. These historic hangars are now located on the Delta corporate campus adjoining the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. When you visit, be prepared to show ids at the security gate.

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Two historic aircraft maintenance hangers house the Delta Flight Museum
This very wide-angle photo is stitched together from two smartphone photos

Unlike most museum artifact, aircraft are rather large. This makes getting them into pictures difficult unless you have a very wide-angle lens. I stitch photos together. Photo Gallery does a fine job of that. Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) does a superb job. I use both. ICE is especially handy when some perspective correction also needs to be done.

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Delta’s first 767 aircraft is now a museum inside the museum 

The largest item inside the museum is a Boing 767 aircraft. LJK13046-P4-2000Inside the rear portion has been converted into an exhibit area with display cases along the sides.

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The Spirit of Delta – Boing 767 aircraft purchased for Delta by its employees, retirees, and friends in the financially difficult times in 1982.

A number of items, like luggage carts, have been turned into display cases and there are numerous interactive displays giving information about the artifacts and the history of flight.

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The Delta Flight Museum, like other museums, is illuminated for a pleasant experince by visitors not for cameras. The light requires high ISO settings and the techniques of noise reduction described in the earlier article. The high contrast range, illustrated here by the view into the “business end” of an aircraft engine and the cockpit, requires HDR processing. That technique was also covered in the prior post. For the images here I used primarily the “shadows” slider in Photo Gallery and the HDR effect in onOne Perfect Effects 8.

The many historical items take the visitor back to the early days of Delta, indeed to the early days of passenger flight. There are many interesting artifacts like the early “amenity kit”. Yes, indeed, there was a time when smoking was common in airplanes.

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Early day customer being assisted in boarding flight.
Tableau at the Delta Flight Museum.
Atlanta, Georgia

When we look at what flying was like some 85 years ago when Delta got started in the passenger business, we smile at how plain and  simple it all was. The equipment was outright crude, and so was the merchandising and the service.

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Even I remember those simple days of flying. On my first flight on a DC-3 when we arrived at our destination the pilot hopped out, unlocked the door to the terminal and came back and unloaded the luggage. The Delta Flight Museum has the first Delta DC-3, now beautifully restored.

Douglas DC-3 aircraft at the Delta Flight Museum

Douglas DC-3 aircraft at the Delta Flight Museum

Of course, I couldn’t resist this opportunity for a “selfie” in the polished metal of the DC-3.

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The Delta Flight Museum is still a work in progress. There are several aircraft outside the hangars that have not (yet) been integrated into the museum experience for visitors. Photography is permitted “for personal use”. There is a museum shop, of course. Be sure to pick up a memento there.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Little DOF Lesson

Just a little lesson about depth of field

This wasn’t meant to be a lesson at all, just a walk in the park with my camera along. Although the morning was cool, if anything below 80 degrees (27C) is defined as cool, the humidity was quite tiresome. Here in Dixie the nighttime temperature in summer falls down to around the dew point making for a nice steam bath. The birds could be heard but they weren’t about to come out of their hiding places. The larger creatures couldn’t be seen either. I settled on “scenics”, plants, and insects to satisfy my camera. As is my habit, I take a picture as soon as something comes in range, then approach my “model” taking more photos until the beastie takes flight. That is normally a couple of shots at best. But on this occasion the dragonflies were reluctant to escape. A got several sequences. I was happy with my “take” and my walk.

When I inspected my photos I noticed that some of the dragonfly photos taken from a larger distance neatly showed more depth of field than the closer shots. Of course, that is how optics works, and it seemed like a pleasant little reminder, or lesson on this topic. Let me tell you a little more.

First, so I won’t lose you, a few of the photos. They are not masterpieces, but will illustrate my story nicely.

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

Dragonfly

The little strip of images shows all seven exposures of this little friend. All were taken with my lens at 200mm focal length setting and at f/11. In the larger photos I show three crops from three exposures. The top one was from the shot I took from 1.6m, then 1.2m and 1.1m. You can clearly see that the far left wing is sharper in the top photo than the bottom one.

We all know that you get more depth of field, the area where things look sharp, at smaller apertures, that is larger f-numbers. Here is an example of that. Two photos, the left one at f/5.3 the right one at f/11. Everything else was the same.

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We also know that at the same aperture setting the depth of field is greater at larger distances from the camera. Not something we usually think about, especially when we are shooting at close distances. If you need more depth, step back! That is not one of the typical advise rules. But it is true. My dragonfly reminded me of this consequence of the way optics works.

For you, dear reader, I did a little bit of extra work. Modern cameras, even my eight-year old little Nikon D60, record all sort of information for each picture taken. EXIF data is what we normally call this set of details that comes with our photos. With auto-focus lenses even the focus distance is recorded. So I was able to go back and get the distance for each shot, then calculate the depth of field at that distance. Here are the results.

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At 3 meters, about 6 feet, I get close to 100 mm, 4 inches, of depth of field, DOF. At 2.2 m the field is down to about half that. At my closes distance, about 1.1 m, 44 inches, the DOF is down to 12 mm, a bit less than half an inch.

The moral of the story, once again, if you need more depth, step back! Of course, you need sufficient pixel resolution to be able to crop so you can see your subject.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

The Runt

The Runt of the Take

The day was a pretty good one for me, 102 photos. There is still that old “Kodachrome habit” in me – be frugal with exposures and make every one count. So this was a lot of exposures for me. Of course, it was a special day, a trip the the Botanical Garden of Georgia, in Athens, Georgia, U.S.A. There is always a lot to enjoy there and it is a gorgeous and rich environment for photography.

But back to the subject: Runt – smallest, weakest, least likely to succeed. Every “take” of photos has these, some get thrown out without another thought, some just form the detritus in the archives. Every so often I take another look and ask myself, “is there something in that photo?”

The “subject of this post” is one of those “runts”. Sometimes I do a lot of fancy processing, sometimes I take them into “art effects” tools, sometimes, when I have time on my hands, I try all of these.

OK, here is one of the results. I post this first so it will show in the links to this post in the various social places. If I showed the original first, you, my dear reader would most likely have passed it by.

Opium Poppy

This is a photo of an opium poppy from the International Gardens. This one taken from the side, slightly below the flower. I liked the light on it at the time. The result didn’t impress me nearly as much. So it landed in my “make art of this” corner when I came around to it.

I needed to run some tests on the latest improvements to Windows 8.1. I have it in a VMware virtual machine. Drag and drop works beautifully in this system. I opened Microsoft Word 13 in the guest machine and dragged over the thumbnail from Photo Gallery that I had open in the host system. A bit of manipulation and I had a pleasant image. Yes, the Photo Tools work nicely in the current version of Microsoft Office.

Opium Poppy

Then I took the image into PaintShop Pro to work on it. After some of my ideas did not work well, I wondered if maybe a black and white version could bring out the lively, light, and vibrant aspects of this blossom. Making a B&W of such rich and intense red seemed like sacrilege unless I could retain the feeling of purity of the color. I decided that “purity” is best evoked by white, so I used full red filtration for the conversion and make it into a high key image. Some sharpening and a bit of contrast adjustment and I was satisfied that I was doing justice to the flower.

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Opium PoppyThe images above are three of my attempts to give this runt of a photo a chance. I guess I would be amiss if I did not show what I was starting with. The original photo here is shown smaller than the others to allow it cower shyly in the corner. It gets its chance of limelight in the costumes of “artistic effects” above.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Museum Photography

Museums present a treasure trove of fascinating artifacts that can make appealing photographs. Museum photography offers a whole set of challenges that you need to tackle to bring home beguiling images of those tokens of days past. Here are my thoughts that might help you to make a museum visit a fun and productive experience.LJK11819-P3-1024

The first obstacles to museum photography are the rules imposed by the institution. Some museum strictly prohibit any photography, on the other end of the scale are places that urge you to bring your camera. Most are somewhere in between.

The larger museums may have extensive information about taking pictures on their website. They also tend to be the most restrictive. If you don’t find specific information on photography give the museum a call and ask.

The most likely rules let you take photographs for your own use – no publication, commercialization or selling of the photos. You can often get permission for such use, but generally that involves fees, special scheduling, supervision, and approval of the final images. That is beyond the scope of this article.

LJK11787-P4-1024Some museums restrict the type of cameras that can be used. Cellphone cameras and unobtrusive point-and-shoot cameras are more likely to be allowed. Anything that looks like professional gear may be frowned upon.

For security reasons museums, like so many other places, tend to prohibit backpacks and large cases. Plan on travelling light, just the camera and maybe an extra lens – not much more.

Expect that tripods are not allowed, they do impede traffic and the enjoyment of the exhibits by other visitors. Flash or other artificial light may generally not be used. Many artifacts have delicate paints and pigments that are affected by light and the use of bright lights will degrade these items, obviously something you don’t want to do.

Having maneuvered around access restrictions you are now faced with another set of obstacles.

Museums tend to be dark places. That means using large apertures, slow shutter speeds that you can successfully handhold, and high ISO, sensor sensitivity, settings. Not the best formula for crisp, sharp images. Be prepared to spend a good deal of time on post-processing.

Learn to handhold your camera for steady pictures. Lens vibration reduction features can help a great deal. Bracing your elbows against your body and holding your breath during the exposure can allow shutter speeds below 1/10 of a second.

LJK11824-P3-1024In many instances there will be light from windows or skylights in addition to localized spot lighting. Not the best formula for color photography. You will just have to make the best of it. The overhead spot lights may not provide the best lighting for photography, but there is little you can do. Find the best angle that will allow you to create a compelling image.

Especially smaller artifacts will likely be in glass cases. Museums generally try to keep these quite clean, but reflections can be a pain. The closer you come to the glass the easier it is to avoid reflections from room lights, yourself, your camera and things behind you. Do not touch your camera to the glass, that might interfere with your lens focusing and may introduce vibrations. Do not brace yourself with a hand against the glass, your fingerprints can only detract from the experience of the visitors behind you.

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For larger objects you have the added problem of disturbing other items or even visitors on the other side. The shallow depth of field at large aperture settings helps a great deal. You should also consider getting down on a knee to get an upward angle. The higher walls and ceilings may make for a more pleasing background. Of course, a downward angle might also be possible, but do not even think of climbing on displays or furniture.

Post-Processing

So you did the best you could and have a haul of exposures to process into your masterpieces.

Here is an example that I took all the way to “café art”. This photo is of a head of the Greek goddess Demeter at the Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. It was hand-held at 1/6 sec. The other parameters are f/5.6, 55mm, ISO 1600. There was just a tiny bit of camera shake visible at high magnification.

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My camera is not of the latest technology and high ISO settings show a great deal of noise. Your camera may do a lot better. On a visit to the above-mentioned Carlos museum I used mostly ISO 3200 – the highest setting – to allow shutter speeds of around 1/15 second. To reduce the noise in the photos I used the “edge-preserving smooth” tool in PaintShop Pro. Here is an illustration of the tool’s effect:

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The screenshot on the left shows the original, the one on the right the resulting smoothing. For this illustration I used a higher setting than I actually used in order for the effect to be more obvious in this blog post. A high smoothing setting results in a “painterly” look as you can see. It does, however, reduce the apparent noise enough so that further processing steps can bring out the best in the photo. For the illustrations above and the one below, all from the Carlos Museum, I mostly maintained the warm look of incandescent illumination since that is what the museum uses. Here is the head of the Aphrodite statue, one of the museum’s prize properties.

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Here the lighting in the museum and the background work well.

For some photos, where the lighting was too contrasty because of localized spotlights, I found using HDR effect tools useful for flattening the tones. My favorite one is the HDR effect in onOne Perfect Effects 8. A similar tool , but a bit harder to use, is also found in Picasa.

I used the HDR effect tool on the photo below to bring out the detail of the machinery. This photo is from the Southeastern Railway Museum, Duluth, Georgia. This museum is a delight for photographers – your cameras and even tripods are welcome. The photo below was a 20 second exposure taken inside one of their large buildings. Clearly not in reach of a handheld camera.

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Even the interiors of outdoor displays require long exposures. The above photo was a 3.6 second exposure.

For another outdoor photo the problem was a a gray, overcast sky. My solution for this was to make the photo into a line and ink “painting”.

General II

There is much to see at museums, and many photo opportunities. Enjoy!

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Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University

Southeastern Railway Museum, Duluth, GA

A day at the Southeastern Railway Museum with the SPS

This article was simultaneously published on Photography Notes and Tips

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Addendum (5 July 2014)

Museum Photography Etiquette

Six Reasons to Check Out a Local Museum

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck

Lost your friends to the shadows?

So often I see photos that show people almost totally lost in shadows. Maybe a group standing in front of the Eiffel Tower – beautiful detail in the landscape, but the faces of the people are totally unrecognizable because of the shadows falling across their faces. LJK11511-P7

Especially in photos taken with on-camera flash, the folks in front are way overexposed and the ones in the back row lost in the dark. It need not be so, there is help my friends! Some times all it takes is to let Auto Correct in Photo Gallery or a small move of the Shadows slider over toward the right to set matters right. In PicasaI’m feeling lucky” may do the trick or the Fill Light slider.

The dark areas of our photos hide a lot of detail that is often totally unrecognizable. Those details can be brought out. It may not result in award-winning photos, but it may make all the difference at a family gathering.

The photo above won’t let you bring out any detail in the figure, so don’t bother to try. It is a “doctored” photo, I made the figure, actually a flat sculpture, totally black.

I did make some experiments to see just how much information can be extracted from a painfully underexposed photo. I used a white cloth with a near-white plate and a white egg on that. The lighting was very soft, diffused window light so there would be hardly any shadows. My camera decided that the exposure at f/11 should be 1/15 of a second. Now we all know that cameras can’t tell an all white subject from a normal scene. You have seen photos of those white dogs romping in snow – they are just a dingy gray all over. So I over-exposed by 2 1/3 stops – used a shutter speed of 1/3 second. Here is my photo as seen in Photo Gallery.

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Note the histogram chart on the right. It shows the relative number of pixels of each shade, from totally black on the left to totally white on the right. There are just a few pixels that are below the halfway mark on the chart. The most pixels are bunched up near the right, the white, end. The cloth is not completely white and you can make out some texture in it. But looking at the photo you would conclude that indeed I had used a white cloth, a white plate, and a white egg, and the photo fairly represents my subject.

The next photo here shows the same scene but photographed at 1/250 second – four stops under the camera selected exposure, 6 1/3 stops below the photo above.

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Hopeless, wouldn’t you say? Take a look at the histogram. All the pixels are bunched up tightly on the black end. But note that they are just a tiny bit above the left end. There must be some data there.

Photo Gallery offers a number of sliders in the Adjust exposure panel. Those little doohickeys under the histogram are sliders too. They can be used to tell Photo Gallery to spread out the data. By sliding down the one on the white end you can tell Photo Gallery which pixel value to amplify up all the way to the white end, the rest will be proportionally lightened too. Lets see what happens when the “white” histogram slider is moved way left to just above where there is pixel data.

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Look at the picture. Amazing, isn’t it? Not quite as white as it should be. So let’s use the Brightness slider to finish the job.

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Well, what do you think? Yes, it is astonishing how much useful picture information can hide in shadows. I hope I have convinced you that you should take another look at your “uselessly underexposed” photos. As I said, maybe not gallery quality, but certainly very much worth doing.

For a bit more background on the histogram, see my post in Photography Notes & Tips Use the histogram to improve your photos.

.:.

© 2014 Ludwig Keck